President Muhammadu Buhari has revealed that Nigeria loses $26.3 billion to maritime crimes annually.
He made the disclosure on Tuesday at the commissioning ceremony of a maritime surveillance project, Falcon Eye Alignment, at the Naval Headquarters in Abuja.
Represented at the event by Vice President Yomi Osinbajo, President Buhari regretted threats to the maritime environment which he said had become more harmful to the economy hence the project.
According to him, some key identified threats within Nigeria’s maritime environment in recent years have taken on increasingly more harmful dimensions to the country’s economy and even the safety of citizens and commercial entities who use the maritime domain.
He listed some of these threats which include, piracy, armed attacks on ships, kidnapping for ransom, crude oil theft, smuggling, as well as Illegal Unregulated and Unreported Fishing (IUU).
“It is estimated that Nigeria loses about $26.3 billion annually to various forms of criminality particularly piracy and sea robbery”, he said.
Buhari said the “Falcon Eye system is a state-of-the-art surveillance facility that incorporates various sensors located along the nation’s enormous coastline, such as radars, long range electro optic systems with thermal or night vision capability, automatic identification system receivers, weather stations and marine Very High Frequency radios for communication”.
The president noted that “the integration of these sensors into the Falcon Eye system generates a real-time situational awareness of the activities of vessels in Nigerian maritime domain and some selected parts in the Gulf of Guinea.
He said this will enable the Nigerian Navy generate a comprehensive intelligence picture of activities within our maritime environment for further analysis before, in appropriate cases , dispatching a Nigerian Navy Ship for interdiction, investigation, and/or subsequent arrest of erring vessels”.
Buhari added that “the Falcon Eye system will serve as a force multiplier for our naval platforms tasked to effectively secure our maritime environment from external aggression. It will also enable the Nigerian Navy to effectively combat any maritime crimes that could disrupt the conduct of maritime trade”
In his remarks, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, said the surveillance project had aided the navy in the recovery of 300,000 bags of foreign rice valued at N9billion and the arrest of 500 suspects in addition to the arrest of 30 vessels and 50 pirates and 70 oil tankers laden with stolen products worth $1billion since 2016.
He added that the project has to do with the deployment of five over the horizon radars to cover the entire nation’s coastline and up to 200nm or 370.4 km seaward translating to the complete coverage of Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone, monitoring and analysis of data from sensor sites strategically located along the nation’s coastline facilitated through the four Falcon Eye centers in Abuja, Lagos, Yenagoa and Calabar.